The Super Bowl — the annual championship game of USA’s National Football League (NFL) — decides the winner of the American football season. In Super Bowl LI, the 51st edition of the contest which took place on Sunday, Lady Gaga performed, making subtle criticisms about US president Donald Trump’s policies as well as statements supporting LGBT rights.
In Super Bowl LI at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, American Football Conference champions New England Patriots beat National Football Conference champions Atlanta Falcons 34–28 to claim the crown.
The Super Bowl has been a staple part of America’s sporting culture and has its definitive identity. Part of that identity is the half-time performance which usually has a contemporary pop star performing on a stage set up in the stadium.
This year, Lady Gaga performed in what has been hailed as one of the best Super Bowl half-time shows of all time.
The singer began by singing two patriotic American songs — God Bless America and This Land Is Your Land — while perched on the roof of the stadium. Part of her performance also included drones in the night sky which shined like stars and briefly assembled to mimic an American flag in the sky.
Photo Gallery| Lady Gaga at Super Bowl Half Time Show: What a performance!
Amid the controversies that have cropped up since US president Donald Trump assumed office on January 20, the Super Bowl was expected to be a stage when many would make their voices heard.
Trump’s policies have included entry restrictions for refugees and citizens of seven Asian and African countries. Since the seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — happen to have a majority-Muslim population, protests have cropped up against the nature of the policies.
The ramifications have already been felt in the sporting fraternity with Pakistan-born US batsman Fahad Babar forced to return home midway through the Regional Super50 in Barbados last week.
Gaga’s set-list at the Super Bowl half-time, while not directly confrontational, was littered with hints of support towards movements across the country that demanded inclusion and equality.
After her patriotic renditions on the rooftop, Gaga recited part of the American Pledge of Allegiance, saying, “one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” before descending to the stage.
Many believe her choice to begin with patriotic songs was a statement itself since she said on Friday, “I want people that watch the half-time show to feel the greatness of the USA.”
Later, she performed six of her songs: Poker Face, Born This Way, Telephone, Just Dance, Million Reasons and Bad Romance.
While performing the song Million Reasons, she walked through the crowd, and intentionally paused to hug a woman of colour while singing the lyric “why don’t you stay, stay”, which seemed to be an allusion against Trump’s policy banning immigrants.
Gaga has long been known as an advocate of LGBT rights and her performance of Born This Way —considered a cult anthem for LGBT groups — created history. It was the first time the word ‘transgender’ had been said during a Super Bowl half-time show.
Another hint at Gaga’s support of diversity was seen in her backup dancers who were a mix of different races and skin colours.
Apart from the policies on immigration, Trump has also signed an executive order known as the ‘the Mexico City Policy’ which bans US federal money being given to international groups which perform abortions or provide information on abortions.
Many criticised the move, especially since photos of Trump signing the order showed him circled by a cabinet of male office bearers with no women present. Criticism was levied that an order concerning women and their rights had no female consultants at the time of signing.
Before the Super Bowl on Sunday, three eminent female theatre personalities — Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo and Jasmine Cephas Jones of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton —made their own statement in support of women’s rights.
The trio sang the patriotic song America the Beautiful before the start of the game and intentionally added the words “and sisterhood” in the first verse which contains the lyrics “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”